Friday, August 05, 2005

The end of the use of "hybrid" as a synonym for "fuel efficient"

NY Times: 2006 Lexus RX 400h: The Hybrid Emperor's New Clothes
ONE question lingers after driving the 2006 Lexus RX 400h: How did it come to this, that Toyota is now selling a hybrid gas-electric vehicle with no tangible fuel economy benefits?

...The hybrid version of the Lexus sport utility wagon follows in the tracks of the 2005 Honda Accord Hybrid by offering more horsepower than the conventional version of the same vehicle, a markedly different approach than that of economy-focused hybrids like Toyota's own Prius or Honda's Civic Hybrid. In this case we're talking 268 horsepower for the RX 400h, versus 230 for the gasoline-only RX 330.
That's right, an SUV is still an SUV. According to the review, this one gets only 23 miles a gallon.

I am kind of obsessed with hybrids, so it is unfortunate to read that Toyota is using the Lexus's energy efficiency for more power. But that's the way the auto industry has been for the past 20 years. Nearly every gain in efficiency has been turned into additional horsepower. I still want a Prius. Or an Insight.

UPDATE 8/8: Did you know that you can buy a $5,000 minivan in China that gets 43 miles per gallon? It's not a hybrid, just a low-power (top speed is only 81 mph) no-frills automobile. And guess who makes it....G.M! Just think how cheap it would be with the employee discount...


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